Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103 - We Are The Mighty
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Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103

A legendary chapter in Air Force history has come to a close.

Retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” E. Cole, the last survivor of the “Doolittle Raid,” died April 9, 2019, in San Antonio.

“Lt. Col. Dick Cole reunited with the Doolittle Raiders in the clear blue skies today,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. “My heart goes out to his friends and family as our Air Force mourns with them. We will honor him and the courageous Doolittle Raiders as pioneers in aviation who continue to guide our bright future.”


On April 18, 1942, the U.S. Army Air Forces and the Doolittle Raiders attacked Tokyo in retaliation for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which boosted American morale in the early months of World War II.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103

Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, Crew No. 1 (Plane #40-2344, target Tokyo): 34th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, pilot; Lt. Richard E. Cole, copilot; Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

“There’s another hole in our formation,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “Our last remaining Doolittle Raider has slipped the surly bonds of Earth, and has reunited with his fellow Raiders. And what a reunion they must be having. Seventy-seven years ago this Saturday, 80 intrepid airmen changed the course of history as they executed a one-way mission without hesitation against enormous odds. We are so proud to carry the torch he and his fellow Raiders handed us.”

Cole was born Sept. 7, 1915, in Dayton, Ohio. In 1938, he graduated from Steele High School in Dayton and attended two years of college at Ohio University before enlisting as an aviation cadet on Nov. 22, 1940. Soon after he enlisted, Cole received orders to report to Parks Air College in East St. Louis, Illinois, for training before arriving at Randolph Field, Texas and later, Kelly Field, Texas. He completed pilot training and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in July 1941.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103

U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole stands in front of a refurbished U.S. Navy B-25 Mitchell displayed at an airshow in Burnet, Texas.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

While Cole was on a training mission with the 17th Bombardment Group at Pendleton, Oregon, word came that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor.

The 17th BG flew anti-submarine patrols until February 1942, when Cole was told he would be transferred to Columbia, South Carolina. While there, he and his group volunteered for a mission with no known details. Cole would later say that he thought his unit was heading to North Africa.

For weeks, Cole practiced flying maneuvers on the B-25 Mitchell, a U.S. Army Air Corps twin-engine propeller-driven bomber with a crew of five that could take off from an aircraft carrier at sea, in what some would call the first joint action that tested the Army and Navy’s ability to operate together. When the carrier finally went to sea to bring 16 bombers closer to maximize their reach, it wasn’t until two days into the voyage that the airmen and sailors on the mission were told that their carrier, the U.S.S. Hornet, and all of its bombers, were heading in the direction of Tokyo.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103

A U.S. Army Air Force B-25B Mitchell medium bomber, one of sixteen involved in the mission, takes off from the flight deck of the USS Hornet for an air raid on the Japanese Home Islands on April 18, 1942.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

In an age-before mid-air refueling and GPS, the U.S.S. Hornet weighed less than a quarter of today’s fortress-like aircraft carriers. With Cole as the copilot to then-Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, the B-25 Mitchell bomber #40-2344, would take off with only 467 feet of takeoff distance.

What made the mission all the more challenging was a sighting by a Japanese patrol boat that spurred the task force commander, U.S. Navy Adm. William F. “Bull” Halsey, to launch the mission more than 650 nautical miles from Japan – 10 hours early and 170 nautical miles farther than originally planned. Originally, the Mitchells were supposed to land, refuel and proceed on to western China, thereby giving the Army Air Corps a squadron of B-25s and a commander. But now the aircrews faced increasing odds against them, in their attempt to reach the airfields of non-occupied China. Still, Cole and his peers continued with their mission.

Flying at wave-top level around 200 feet and with their radios turned off, Cole and the Raiders avoided detection for as much of the distance as possible. In groups of two to four aircraft, the bombers targeted dry docks, armories, oil refineries and aircraft factories in Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka and Kobe as well as Tokyo itself. The Japanese air defense was so caught off guard by the Raiders that little anti-aircraft fire was volleyed and only one Japanese Zero followed in pursuit. With their bombs delivered, the Raiders flew towards safety in China.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dick Cole answers question about the raid during a luncheon in honor of the event at the Army Navy Club in Washington.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford)

Many airmen had to parachute out into the night, Cole himself jumping out at around 9,000 feet. All aircraft were considered lost with Cole’s own aircraft landing in a rice paddy full of night soil. Of the 80 airmen committed to the raid, eight were captured by Japanese forces with five executed and three sent to prison (where one died of malnutrition). All of the 72 other airmen found their way to safety with the help of Chinese farmers and guerrillas and continued to serve for the remainder of World War II.

The attack was a psychological blow for the Japanese, who moved four fighter groups and recalled top officers from the front lines of the Pacific to protect the cities in the event American bomber forces returned.

After the Doolittle Raid, Cole remained in the China-Burma-India Theater supporting the 5318th Provisional Air Unit as a C-47 pilot flying “The Hump,” a treacherous airway through the Himalayan Mountains. The USAAF created the 5318th PAU to support the Chindits, the long-range penetration groups that were special operations units of the British and Indian armies, with Cole as one of the first members of the U.S. special operations community. On March 25, 1944, the 5318th PAU was designated as the 1st Air Commando Group by USAAF commander Gen. Henry H. Arnold, who felt that an Air Force supporting a commando unit in the jungles of Burma should properly be called “air commandos.” Cole’s piloting skills blended well with the unconventional aerial tactics of Flying Tiger veterans as they provided fighter cover, bombing runs, airdrops and landing of troops, food and equipment as well as evacuation of casualties.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103

Lt. Col. Dick Cole smiles while looking out of a B-25 aircraft April 20, 2013, on the Destin Airport, Fla. The B-25 is the aircraft he co-piloted during the Doolittle Raid.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

Cole retired from the Air Force on Dec. 31, 1966, as a command pilot with more than 5,000 flight hours in 30 different aircraft, more than 250 combat missions and more than 500 combat hours. His decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters; Air Medal with oak leaf cluster; Bronze Star Medal; Air Force Commendation Medal; and Chinese Army, Navy, Air Corps Medal, Class A, First Grade. All Doolittle Raiders were also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in May 2014.

In his final years, he remained a familiar face at Air Force events in the San Antonio area and toured Air Force schoolhouses and installations to promote the spirit of service among new generations of airmen. On Sept. 19, 2016, Cole was present during the naming ceremony for the Northup Grumman B-21 Raider, named in honor of the Doolittle Raiders.

“We will miss Lt. Col. Cole, and offer our eternal thanks and condolences to his family,” Goldfein said. “The Legacy of the Doolittle Raiders — his legacy —will live forever in the hearts and minds of airmen, long after we’ve all departed. May we never forget the long blue line, because it’s who we are.”

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

Lists

4 ways to have fun with a Russian spy ship

Let’s face it, nobody likes a tattletale. This is especially true in the military. No, we’re not talking of the folks around your office that snitch on you for not dotting every I or crossing every T. We’re talking maritime tattletales, ships that cruise just off the coast, collecting intelligence. Russia has one loitering near our eastern coast last year, according to Fox News. This ship has been around before and it’s back to its same old tricks.


Sick of it? We are, too. These are our suggestions for how the United States can have a little fun with this tattletale.

4. Buzz ’em.

The Russians have been buzzing American planes and ships for a while. I’m sure there are some Navy aviators dying to dish out some payback. It just so happens that cruising just off the East Coast makes for a very convenient opportunity. Furthermore, why does it just have to be just one buzzing? A P-3 Orion here, a couple of F/A-18E/Fs there — maybe get the F-35C Lightning or P-8 Poseidon in on the action as well. The Russians have run up quite a tab, and it’s time they started paying.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103
A F/A-18C Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 25 flies supersonic over the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson during an air power demonstration. Maybe it’s time to do this in close proximity to a Russian tattletale. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Benjamin Stevens)

3. Follow it around.

Have an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, littoral combat ship, or a Coast Guard cutter just follow the tattletale around. This sort of stuff will undoubtedly make it harder for the tattletale to get what it came for.

2. Give it a little nudge.

The Russians did this to a pair of American ships, the USS Yorktown and the USS Caron, in 1988. It might not be a bad idea to get a little payback for this… with thirty years’ interest, of course.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103
The destroyer USS Caron is struck by the bows of a Soviet Mirka II class light frigate as the American vessel exercises the right of free passage through the Soviet-claimed 12-mile territorial waters. There’s been about 30 years of interest piling up for this. (U.S. Navy photo)

1. Board them.

Since this Russian ship is hanging around some American ports, the U.S. Coast Guard can get in on the fun. It wouldn’t be too hard for some enterprising CO to come up with an excuse — we mean probable cause, of course — to board and search the tattletale. Maybe they’re responding to an anonymous tip that there are drugs on board. Or perhaps it’s overdue for a safety inspection. If the CO of the Russian ship mouths off to the Coasties, we’re in for some good times. After all, they can’t be given a pass for contempt of Coast Guard, can they?

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103
The Coast Guard could help the United States have some fun by having with a boarding party, like the one pictured here during a drill on USS Tarawa. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Sara Mooers)

So, how would you like to have some nice, non-lethal fun with this Russian tattletale?

MIGHTY HISTORY

This MoH recipient defeated 2 grenades to save his Marines

After graduating high school, Robert Simanek joined the Marine Corps and, soon after, set sail for Korea with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. Serving as a rifleman at the time, Simanek carried the massive and very powerful Browning Automatic Rifle. While “in-country,” the young Marine was also tasked with being the platoon’s radioman — pulling a double-duty.


On Aug. 17, 1952, Simanek’s squad was out patrolling through various outposts slightly north of Seoul.

Unfortunately, the squad made a wrong turn, and the occupying Chinese forces were patiently waiting for the 12-man team.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103
The Browning Assault Rifle

Almost immediately, the squad came under heavy enemy gunfire, causing Simanek to seek cover in a nearby trench line along with other Marines.

After sustaining a few casualties, Simanek maneuvered left and ran into two Chinese officers who were, oddly enough, just having a conversation. To his surprise, the enemy had no idea that the young Marine had spotted them. So, Simanek took them both out with a few squeezes of his trigger.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103
Members of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army counting off.

Now, gaining momentum, Simanek quickly maneuvered through the enemy-infested area until two grenades landed near his feet. He kicked one of the frags away but ran out of time to relocate the second.

Boom!

The young rifleman shielded his fellow brothers by covering the exploding grenade with his own body. Somehow, the tough-as-nails Marine survived. Simanek was able to instruct the other wounded Marines nearby to head back to the rear — he’d provide cover for them. He crawled on his hands and knees prepared to fight before a rescue squad showed up, much to his relief.

The courageous Marine was medevaced from the area. A year later, Simanek was informed that we would receive the Medal of honor for his bravery and selflessness.

On Oct. 27, 1953, Simanek was awarded the precious metal by President Eisenhower.

Check out Medal Of Honor Book‘s video below for the full breakdown of this incredible story.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This captured GoPro video shows what it’s like to fight the Kurds with ISIS

ISIS talks a big game in posting propaganda videos on the internet, especially at the height of its power in 2014 – 2015. But one GoPro slamcam video, captured by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and posted to YouTube shows, ISIS fighters aren’t always the hardcore soldiers ISIS says they are.

A warning: although most of the video just shows ISIS fighters under intense SDF fire, some of the images can get graphic.


The video is part of the “War Diary” project, an educational documentary project to archive real events in combat by the people who fought there. It features a squad of ISIS fighters directly engaged in combat with the Kurdish SDF. The GoPro camera appears to be attached either to a helmet of a squad commander or strapped to his chest. The commander, Abu Ayman al-Iraqi, is accompanied by a fighter named Abu Aisha Iraqi, who keeps telling the man in charge that they should retreat.

Abu Aisha, you can probably guess, was right about getting out of there. The Kurds were coming at the ISIS fighters with fire so intense, the jihadis couldn’t even look at where they were shooting back. The ISIS commander has to order his men repeatedly to shoot back instead of fleeing. When he orders a grenade or RPG, his troops stay motionless with fear.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103

If you don’t understand Arabic, that’s okay. The Kurds translated the video for you.

The confrontation took place in Syria’s Deir Ez-Zor Province in December 2018. It was part of a greater campaign by the SDF to push ISIS forces back across the Euphrates River, eliminate its fighters from the Iraqi border, and capture all remaining ISIS strongholds. It happened at the same time as the SDF push to capture the ISIS capital at Raqqa and the Syrian government’s push against the jihadist group in Western Syria. The result of the combined campaigns was the final defeat of ISIS as a formal army, occupying any territory.

In the video, you can see hear the frustration of the commander as his troops fail to shoot back, forget their weapons, and abandon an armored vehicle to escape the oncoming enemy. Even the ISIS commander begins to fumble with his AR-15 as the Kurds get closer. Abu Ayman Iraqi gets shot around 9:00. his men desert him in the armored vehicle as he shouts at them to come back.

He does not die in the video.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the truth behind the creepy Philadelphia Experiment

The Philadelphia Experiment is one of the most grotesque military urban legends ever — and it has endured as an infamous World War II conspiracy theory. But is there any truth to it? Let’s take a look.

According to legend, on Oct. 28, 1943, the USS Eldridge, a Cannon-class destroyer escort, was conducting top-secret experiments designed to win command of the oceans against the Axis powers. The rumor was that the government was creating technology that would render naval ships invisible to enemy radar, and there in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, it was time to test it out.


Witnesses claim an eerie green-blue glow surrounded the hull of the ship as her generators spun up and then, suddenly, the Eldridge disappeared. The ship was then seen in Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia before disappearing again and reappearing back in Philadelphia.

The legend states that classified military documents reported that the Eldridge crew were affected by the events in disturbing ways. Some went insane. Others developed mysterious illness. But others still were said to have been fused together with the ship; still alive, but with limbs sealed to the metal.

That’ll give you nightmares. That’s some Event Horizon sh*t right there.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103

I’ll never sleep again.

(Event Horizon | Paramount Pictures)

Which is actually a convincing reason why the Eldridge’s story gained so much momentum.

In a 1994 article for the Journal of Scientific Exploration, Jacques F. Vallee theorized that deep-seated imagery is key to planting a hoax into the minds of the masses and of the educated public.

But before we break down what really happened that day, let’s talk about the man behind the myth: Carl M. Allen, who would go by the pseudonym, Carlos Miguel Allende. In 1956, Allende sent a series of letters to Morris K. Jessup, author of the book, The Case for the UFO, in which he argued that unidentified flying objects merit further study.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103

Jessup apparently included text about unified field theory because this is what Allende latched onto for his correspondences. In the 1950s, unified field theory, which has never been proven, attempted to merge Einstein’s general theory of relativity with electromagnetism. In fact, Allende claimed to have been taught by Einstein himself and could prove the unified field theory based on events he witnessed on October 28, 1943.

Allende claimed that he saw the Eldridge disappear from the Philadelphia Naval Yard, and he further insisted that the United States Military had conducted what he called the Philadelphia Experiment — and was trying to cover it up.

Jessup was then contacted by the Navy’s Office of Naval Research, who had received a package containing Jessup’s book with annotations claiming that extraterrestrial technology allowed the U.S. government to make breakthroughs in unified field theory.

This is one of the weirdest details. The annotations were designed to look like they were written by three different authors – one maybe extraterrestrial? According to Valle’s article for the Journal of Scientific Exploration, Jessup became obsessed with Allende’s revelations, and the disturbed researcher would take his own life in 1959. It wasn’t until 1980 that proof of Allende’s forgery would be made available.

Inexplicably, two ONR officers had 127 copies of the annotated text printed and privately distributed by the military contractor Varo Manufacturing, giving wings to Allende’s story long after Jessup’s death.

So, what really happened aboard the USS Eldridge that day?

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103

Somewhere in Delaware there are secret military canals that have all the answers…

According to Edward Dudgeon, who served in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Engstrom, which was dry-docked in the Philadelphia Naval Yard while the Eldridge was, both ships did have classified devices on board. They were neither invisibility cloaks nor teleportation drives designed by aliens, but instead, they scrambled the magnetic signatures of ships using the degaussing technique, which provided protection from magnetic torpedoes aboard U-boats.

How Stuff Works suggested that the “green glow” reported by witnesses that day could be explained by an electric storm or St. Elmo’s Fire which, in addition to being an American coming-of-age film starring the Brat Pack, is a weather phenomenon in which plasma is created in a strong electric field, giving off a bright glow, almost like fire.

Finally, inland canals connected Norfolk to Philadelphia, allowing a ship to travel between the two in a few hours.

The USS Eldridge would be transferred to Greece in 1951 and sold for scrap in the 90s, but Allende’s hoax would live on in our effing nightmares forever.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this heroic sailor earned 12 medals for valor

When Boatswain’s Mate First Class James E. Williams finally allowed the Navy to retire him after nearly twenty years of service, he was the proud holder of the Navy’s top seven awards for valor as well as three Purple Hearts and a number of other accolades.

Nearly all of those awards, which ranged from multiple Bronze Stars with “V” devices to the Medal of Honor, were earned in a less than seven-month period.


Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103

Boatswain’s Mate First Class James E. Williams, the Navy’s most decorated enlisted sailor.

(U.S. Navy)

So, how did a young Cherokee boy grow to become one of the U.S. military’s greatest heroes? Well, first, in 1947, he convinced a county clerk to falsify a birth certificate so he could join at the age of 16. His first tour was uneventful, an experience he hated at the time, but learned from, according to a 1998 interview in All Hands Magazine.

“I’d joined the Navy to see the world — and doggonit, I wasn’t moving. I’d got orders to an [landing ship, tank] that just sat around a buoy in the San Diego harbor.”
Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103

Landing Ship, Tanks were large supply vessels that could deposit most cargo directly onto the shore when necessary.

(U.S. Navy)

But a senior sailor gave him some perspective.

“An old chief told me, ‘Son, you got to learn to take orders, even if you disagree with them. That’s the first step to being a good Sailor and a good leader. If you can’t take orders now, you certainly won’t be respected when you give them later.’ Well, I got the message,” said Williams. “Learning discipline was the springboard that helped my Navy career. From then on, I had the sharpest damn knife and the shiniest shoes in the Navy. That’s what I was taught.”

And that sharp knife would come in handy.

Williams got his first taste of small craft and riverine warfare in Korea, where he was sent on raiding parties against small crafts near the shore.

It was this experience and his years of shining shoes and sharpening knives that led to Williams’ proudest day.

“The proudest day of my life had nothing to do with medals, ribbons, citations,” he told All Hands Magazine. “It was when they made me a patrol officer. That position was held only by chiefs and officers. It showed the trust the Navy had placed in me. I always wanted the opportunity to show what I could do. This Vietnam thing was it for me. The Navy gave me the chance to do my job.”

His job would be to take Patrol Boat, River-105 into the small, Viet-Cong-filled rivers of Vietnam.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103

A Patrol Boat River in the waters of Vietnam.

(U.S. Navy)

The crew went out with Williams starting in May, 1966, and the fighting started early. While many of the patrols were quick forays into the river traffic to look for contraband, Williams and his crew saw major combat multiple times before the end of July.

On July 1, Williams and PBR 105 spotted an enemy sampan in the early morning darkness and gave chase. The sampan made for a friendly landing and Williams and his crew quickly came under fire from both the ship and shore. Maneuvering deftly, the men killed five enemies on the boat, captured the vessel and a few ship’s occupants, which were of “significant intelligence value.” He was later awarded the Bronze Star for his actions.

Just 22 days later, PBR-105 once again chased down an enemy sampan, this time at night. Again, they came under fire from enemies on shore but continued to fight. The crew killed six occupants of the boat, one enemy who had made it ashore, and captured the enemy sampan with its cargo and documents intact — again, these were of significant intelligence value. He would later be awarded a Bronze Star for his actions.

Less than a month later, Williams was leading PBR-105 and PBR-101 through the Mekong River in the early evening when they came under fire multiple times from a suspected 100-enemy-gun emplacements on both shores. They stayed in the kill zone, maneuvering and destroying multiple emplacements.

The men intercepted a sampan with two high-ranking Viet-Cong, but Williams was wounded in the face while salvaging documents from it. He kept up his men’s fire and captured 71 classified and sensitive documents before withdrawing. He would later be awarded the Silver Star.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103

A machine gunner on a Patrol Boat River with his two machine guns.

(U.S. Navy)

His greatest heroism under fire came two months later in October, 1966, when PBR-105 and another boat went on what Williams thought would be a routine patrol.

“October 31, 1966, was supposed to be a restful day in the steamy heartland of the Viet Cong,” he said. “But it’s one of those times I won’t never forget, no matter how hard I try. We were on a day patrol, kind of like the ‘relax and recreation’ patrol — nothin’ too heavy.”

But, early in the patrol, the forward machine gunner yelled that he saw two motorized sampans. The motorized boats nearly always carried high-ranking Viet Cong. The Americans gave chase.

The boats attempted to scatter, forcing Williams to choose which to follow, but the Americans quickly killed one and began tracking down the other. The second sampan used the little time it had gained to turn down a shallow canal where the patrol boats couldn’t go.

Williams checked his map. The enemy’s most likely course of action was to follow the canal to its other end, a third of a mile away. He ordered his boats to intercept. Things immediately went sideways.

“We wanted to get them real bad,” he said. “I went around that corner at max sped to cut him off — and, lo and behold, I looked up and didn’t see nothing but boats and people and more boats and more people.”

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103

Not a lot of armor or firepower when you’re dealing with thousands of enemy troops in the water and on shore.

(U.S. Army Center of Military History)

Williams and his boats had run straight into a massive enemy staging area. Suddenly, they found themselves surrounded by multiple companies of Viet Cong fighters. Williams, at the helm, immediately maxed out his engines and used his wake to disrupt the first sampan’s aim, then took off through the gauntlet.

Surprisingly, they made it. Williams later said that it seemed like the sampans were hitting each other more than him as the patrol boats made their mad dash through. Unfortunately for the Americans, they turned with the river only to have their luck worsen.

Their attempted escape landed them in another enemy staging area. Williams decided that the only way to save his shipmates was to fight it out with the Viet Cong, and they did. For over three hours, the patrol boats maneuvered at high speeds and provided fire for one another, cutting down enemy boats and shore positions as fast as they could in a desperate attempt to keep each other alive.

And it worked. The two boats and 10 Americans who went into the river all came back after inflicting a suspected 1,200 enemy casualties and destroying 65 boats. Williams would later be awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions that day, but he still wasn’t done in Vietnam.

Less than three months later, Williams was on a patrol when he saw a dredge strike a mine on Jan. 9, 1967. PBR-105 immediately gave aid and was picking up survivors when the crew heard a tapping coming from inside the hull. Williams jumped into the water.

During repeated dives, he directed the elderly man trapped inside to a nearby hatch, loosened two heavy pipes blocking the hatch, and then ran a line from a nearby tug around the pipes so they could be pulled free. Once the obstruction was removed, Williams and a crew member swam into the still-sinking dredge and pulled the man free, saving his life. He would later receive the Navy and Marine Corps Medal.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103

A Patrol Boat River and a sampan in Vietnam.

(U.S. Navy)

On January 15, less than a week later, Williams was leading a patrol on the Mekong when the crew spotted a large enemy supply movement across one of the river branches. The boat moved to intercept but quickly came under heavy fire from fortified positions on the river banks.

The boat dropped back and called in Vietnamese artillery and U.S. air strikes to reduce the enemy positions, and then forayed back into the river branch. Once again, heavy fire came at them from the shore.

This time, the Americans stayed in the thick of it and took aim at enemy sampans the Vietnamese seemed eager to protect. The PBRs destroyed them before withdrawing. Williams was injured during the withdrawal, but continued to direct the movement and the PBRs’ fire.

The enemy force that the patrol had encountered was later assessed as three heavy weapons companies with 400 men. The patrol was credited with killing sixteen enemies and wounding 20 while destroying nine enemy watercraft, seven structures, and 2,400 pounds of rice. Williams would later receive the Navy Cross for his actions.

Finally, Williams let the Navy send him home to a very well-earned retirement at just under the standard 20 years. He received his Medal of Honor from President Lyndon B. Johnson and entered a quiet nursing home to raise petun….

No. Of course not. He took his retirement and his Medal of Honor and became a U.S. Marshal, serving his country once again. This time, in South Carolina, Georgia, and Washington D.C.

He died on October 13, 1999, the Navy’s 224th birthday. According to The United States Navy Memorial, an unidentified, retired admiral spoke at Williams’ funeral and said,

“Willie did not seek awards. He did not covet getting them. We did not seek to make him a hero. The circumstances of time and place and the enemy’s presence did that. I know through personal investigation of each incident that he never placed his crew nor his patrol boats in danger without first ensuring the risk was calculated and that surprise was on his side. He always had the presence of mind not to endanger friendly villages. He inspired us all, junior and senior alike. It was my greatest honor to have served with the man who truly led us all with his example of unselfish devotion to duty.”

The Aegis destroyer DDG 95, christened in 2003, was named in his honor. Over the course of his career, he received the following awards for his service:

  • The Navy Cross Silver Star (with one gold award star)
  • The Legion of Merit (with valor device)
  • The Navy and Marine Corps Medal with gold star Bronze Star Medal with two gold stars
  • Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Gold Star and Palm
  • Navy Commendation Medal
  • Navy and Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation with one service star
  • Purple Heart with two gold stars
  • Vietnam Service Medal with bronze service star
  • Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
  • National Defense Service Medal with bronze service star
  • United Nations Service Medal
  • Korean Service Medal with two bronze service stars
  • Korean Presidential Unit Citation
  • Korean War Service Medal
  • The Navy Good Conduct Medal with four bronze service stars
Military Life

Dress uniforms from every military branch, ranked

There is a multitude of military uniforms across the five branches and they all serve a purpose. Uniforms are (intended) to be functional and cater to the specific career fields that exist in each military branch. However, when it comes to appearance — especially dress uniforms — there are some that outshine others.


Let’s take a look at whose uniform wins the race, appearance wise.

5. Air Force

Sorry, my dear Air Force, but you have the worst uniform out of all services. Granted, the Air Force is the youngest of all branches, so there might still be some room for growth, but why does everyone wearing their dress blues look like a flight attendant? Please, just give the uniform some variety already.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103

There’s nothing special about Air Force dress blues or the horrendous gray, green, tiger-striped ABUs that are worn on a daily basis. Also, anytime a cardigan is an acceptable, issued uniform item, you might as well openly welcome the heckling when you raise your hand to enlist. Hopefully, things get better with age.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103

4. Coast Guard

Who would have thought that the Coast Guard would outshine the Air Force on this? Let’s be honest, the only thing that separates the Air Force dress uniform from the Coast Guard dress uniform is the gold insignias, buttons, and rank. Maybe it’s a tie? At this point, the gold is the only detail that gives the Coast Guard an upper hand.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103
SEAL Tridents definitely help.

Truthfully, while the Air Force looks like flight attendants, the Coast Guard at least has a white and black hat the makes them look like airline pilots. Oh, and the operational dress uniform (ODU) doesn’t consist of tiger stripes, but a solid dark blue that is just so vanilla they don’t stand out as memorable. That utility baseball cap isn’t doing any favors for anybody, either.

3. Army

Something about the old school green uniform stirs up nostalgia. The Army dress uniform has changed over the past 242 years of existence, but for some reason, the classic look of the uniform reminds everyone how the Army has always had their sh*t together.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103
(Stares in Army)

There’s no hodgepodge of colors, nor does it make the service member look like they could be mistaken for anything other than a soldier. Simplicity gives the Army uniform some kick to outperform the predecessors. The Army Service Uniform (ASU), in particular, brings forth some finery with its class A’s and class B’s, to be worn on varying occasions.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103
There’s a lot of sh*t on Army uniforms to get together.

2. Navy

Selection, selection, selection… maybe this is why the Coast Guard and Air Force seem so bland? The Navy is steeped in traditions and these traditions are upheld and displayed through a variety of different dress combinations. As with the Army, the Navy has the old-school, nostalgic vibe of bygone eras. Who doesn’t remember the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square?

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103
She definitely remembered.

The Cracker Jack uniform, as it’s known, is probably one of the most iconic and well-known uniforms out there. Although bell-bottoms are not necessarily the first thing anyone wants to be wearing there are so many more uniforms in the Navy’s arsenal that we can look past the ridiculousness of the 70’s trend.

1. Marine Corps

Who doesn’t love the look of a red stripe down the pants of a dress uniform? There is just something so put-together, so sharp about the Marine Corps uniforms. Not only does this uniform blow every other uniform out of the water, but it also has some impressive folklore attached. The red stripe on non-commissioned officers trousers, for instance, is said to commemorate those who lost their lives during the storming of Chapultepec Castle in 1847, during the Mexican-American War.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103
Guys, it’s okay. We all know this doesn’t only apply to women, even though you won’t admit it.

While most of the stories behind the uniform have been found to be untrue, it’s still the only uniform that has such well-told history and legend attached. Well, the Corps took the prize in this race, and who can really disagree with its clean sweep? You win this one, Marine Corps… You win.

MIGHTY FIT

7 tips for feeling more comfortable at the gym

For those who’ve never been before, the gym can be an intimidating place. The weights are heavy, some of the isolation machines are complicated, and the other people look jacked. While everyone around you goes about their workout, you feel a little lost and you start feeling like you made a mistake just by showing up.

We call this, “gymtimidation.”

On the surface, the gym can seem like an unwelcoming place, even if the person at the first desk was so nice to you. And if you’re not in the best shape, standing next to some ripped guy or gal can make you feel insecure.

As with any new environment, it takes a little time to adapt to the gym. Fortunately, we’ve got a few tips that’ll help you feel a little more comfortable as you hit the weights.


Also Read: 5 workout machines you should skip while at the gym

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This is definitely a distraction.

Go with some friends

Most of the time, finishing an intense workout is all about finding the proper motivation. Having a little support at the gym goes a long way. Nobody is going to motivate you like a good friend that’s also looking for results. Plus, working out with a few friends helps drown out some of the outside distractions that can make you uncomfortable.

Wear comfy clothes

Going to the gym doesn’t need to be a fashion statement, even if some people do dress up in expensive workout clothes for whatever reason. If you want to spend a pretty dime on the clothes you’re going to sweat in, that’s fine by us. Those who buy buy into the pricey trends tend to do so because it makes them feel better when they enter the weight room.

You don’t have to wear the newest Air Jordans or a Lululemon shirt, but if it’s comfortable and makes you feel more confident, then go for it.

Your workout is about you and no one else.

www.youtube.com

Learn other exercises

It’s safe to say that most people have a general sense of what constitutes a solid workout. Push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups are some of the fundamentals and, if those are exercises you know, that’s fine. But the internet is full of free workout plans.

As long as you have a working smartphone, you can connect to the world wide web, even while you’re in the gym, and find tons of step-by-step workout routines.

It’s that freakin’ simple.

Listen to good music

The majority of gym-goers listen to music to help amp themselves up and get through their strenuous workouts. Listening to a good jam is the perfect way to tune out the world around you and focus on lifting all the weights you can. Before you know it, that “gymtimidation” you once felt will filter its way out of your mind.

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We know!

Remember, you’re not alone.

At any given time, there are likely dozens of people working out in the same gym alongside you. The majority of all gym patrons have the same goal: to become healthier people. As long as you try to get in shape while you’re there, you’re just like everybody else.

Go during slow hours

Being uncomfortable in crowds can limit you in life. When it comes to getting a good workout, however, even those who are extremely comfortable in the gym like to show up during the slow hours.

Who the hell wants to wait on workout equipment anyways? Certainly not us.

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You can do it.

Everyone starts out at day one

You see all those toned people working out on the treadmills and in the weight room? Guess what: Those people decided that they were going to get in shape one day, just like you’re doing now. This might sound cheesy, but everyone starts on day one.

Building and toning muscle takes time, just like confidence. Remember, fitness is a process and a journey.

Articles

New House bill proposes providing veterans with service dogs

A new bill introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Ron DeSantis would pair eligible veterans with service dogs provided by the VA system.


“Thousands of our post-9/11 veterans carry the invisible burden of post-traumatic stress, and there is an overwhelming need to expand the available treatment options,” DeSantis said in a statement. “The VA should use every tool at their disposal to support and treat our veterans, including the specialized care offered by service dogs.”

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103
A Marine assigned to the Wounded Warrior Battalion West at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, learns to groom Ona, a dog from the Hawaii Fi Do, Sept. 23. Hawaii Fi Do trains dogs as either service dogs or therapy dogs and they visit wounded service members, which in turn helps relax the service members as they recover from mental or physical wounds. The dogs and U.S. Marines get together every Friday for training and enrichment. The Marines learn to train the dogs and the dogs help relax the Marines and put them in good spirits.

The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act is a five-year, $10 million program to give post-9/11 veterans with a service dog and veterinary health insurance. The veteran must have been treated for PTSD and have completed an established evidence-based treatment. They must remain significantly symptomatic, rating a 3 or 4 on the PTSD scale.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103
Adamari Muniz, 10, and her family meet a service dog at the Defense Commissary Agency here July 29. Milk-Bone and the DCA will donate a dog to Adamari, who suffers from epilepsy. A service dog can alleviate many of the tasks she finds difficult and give her more independence in that she will not have to ask for constant assistance.

Service dogs are known to be effective in treating veterans with anxiety disorders, physical pain, and other limitations. The animals are proven to give new life and independence to recovering veterans.

Articles

You can thank the military for the McDonald’s drive-thru

Now that we can thank McDonald’s restaurants for serving breakfast all day, we should take the time to thank fatigue-clad troops for not having to leave our cars to get it.


Despite the Army and Air Force’s current relationship with Burger King, their first love was McDonald’s and Mickey D’s was more than willing to accommodate that love by mediating the one thing which kept our troops from easy access to the Golden Arches.

In 1975, Army regulations near Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Arizona prevented soldiers wearing their olive-drab fatigues to leave their cars.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103

McDonald’s heard their plight and added its first drive-thru to McDonalds stores in Arizona, then to Oklahoma and Georgia to serve the soldiers in those areas.

The first drive-thru came way earlier, however. In 1931, a Los Angeles franchise called the Pig Stand opened the first restaurant where motorists could roll around and get a bag of food, packaged to take home. The first burger chain to feature a drive thru was an In-n-Out in Baldwin Park, California in 1948.

In May 1999, that historic location closed forever so that a new McDonald’s restaurant could open next to it. The first McDonald’s drive-thru was torn down and replaced by a parking lot to serve the new McDonald’s.

Burgers, cars, and troops: the triad of American life.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103
NOT Covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army will fire artillery and missiles from Navy ships

The Army and Navy are operating together in the Pacific to fire Army artillery from Navy ships, send targeting data to land weapons from Navy sensors, and use coastal land rockets to destroy enemy ships at sea, service leaders said.

“The Army is looking at shooting artillery off of Navy ships. Innovation is taking existing things and modifying them to do something new,” Maj. Gen. John Ferrari, Director, Program Analysis and Evaluation, G-8, told Warrior Maven in an interview.


Ongoing explorations of the now heavily emphasized Pentagon “cross-domain fires” strategy are currently taking on new applications through combined combat experiments in the Pacific theater. Ferrari explained that these experimental “teams” are combining air defense units, ground combat units, cyber units, and artillery units, and putting them together in operations.

“Part of what we do is integrate with the Navy. The Naval threat for the Pacific is one of the major threats, so the Army is doing multi-domain battle. The Pacific is inherently Joint. There is very little that we do that is not done with other services,” Ferrari said.

Much of the ongoing work involves integrating combat units which have historically operated in a more separated or “single-focused” fashion. Combing field artillery, a brigade headquarters, air defense, Navy assets, and ISR units into a single operation, for instance, represents the kind of experiments now underway.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Woody Paschall)

“Instead of having three battalions of artillery, you will have pieces of these things – then go out and use it,” Ferrari said.

Tactically speaking, firing precision artillery from surface ships could possibly introduce some interesting advantages. The Navy is now exploring weapons such as long-range precision-guided ammunition for its deck-mounted 5-inch guns, ship-fired offensive weapons such as the advanced Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), Maritime Tomahawk, and an over-the-horizon weapon for the Littoral Combat Ship and Frigate.

Something like an Army Tactical Missile Systems rocket, Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, or GPS-guided Excalibur 155m artillery does bring the possibility to supplement existing ship-fired Navy weapons systems. Tomahawk and LRASM, for instance, can fly lower and somewhat parallel to the surface to elude enemy defensive systems.

One senior US military official explained that bringing Army artillery to surface ships to compliment existing Navy weapons could bring new dimensions to the surface attack options available to commanders.

Artillery could also lend combat support to extensive layered defensive weapons on Navy ships such as SeaRAM, Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, and Rolling Airframe Missile, among others. These interceptors, it seems, could be strengthened by the potential use of land-fired weapons on Navy ships.

“Mixing all presents multiple dilemmas for the enemy,” a senior official told Warrior.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103
(Raytheon)

Much of this kind of experimentation will take the next step this coming summer at the upcoming Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, a joint, multi-national combat and interoperability exploration.

Navy commanders have been “all in” on this as well, previously using F-18s to identify targets for land weapons in exercises in recent years such as Noble Eagle in Alaska, senior military officials have described.

Along these lines, US Pacific Commander Adm. Harry Harris has consistently emphasized multi-domain operations in public speeches.

“I’d like to see the Army’s land forces sink a ship, shoot down a missile, and shoot down the aircraft that fired that missile – near simultaneously – in a complex environment where our joint, and combined forces are operating in each other’s domains,” Commander, US Pacific Command, said in 2017 at the Association of the United States Army LANPAC Symposium and Exposition.

During this same speech, Harris also said the Army will fire a Naval Strike Missile from land as part of the upcoming RIMPAC exercise.

Harris underscored the urgency of the US need for stronger multi-domain battle technology and tactics by telling the House Armed Services Committee early 2018 “China will surpass Russia as the world’s second largest Navy by 2020, when measured in terms of submarines and frigate-class ships.

As part of the cross-domain effort, the Army and Navy are looking at improving ways to connect their respective networks; Adm. Harris said “joint effects” in combat can be challenged by a lack of integration between different services’ “tactical ISR, target acquisition and fire control systems.”

For example the Navy’s integrated sensor network known as Cooperative Engagement Capability connects targeting and ISR nodes across the force. The emphasis now is to connect these kinds of systems with, for instance, Army weapons such as ground-fired Patriot missiles and Theater High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile defense weapons.

In addition, the Army’s Integrated Battle Command Systems is itself a comparable combat theater sensor network where various radar, command and control and weapons “nodes” are networked to expedite real-time data sharing. Part of the maturation of this system, according to Army and Northrop Grumman developers, is to further extend IBCS to cue Air Force, and Navy assets operating in a given theater of operations.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Fidel C. Hart)

One senior Army weapons developer told Warrior – “it’s about target acquisition and ranges. Maybe target acquisition comes from a ship and I do surface fires on land. We need to experiment with sensors.”

The advent of long-range sensors and precision fires on the part of potential near-peer adversaries has reinforced the need for the US military to operate in real time across air, sea and land domains. Furthermore, the emergence of converging newer domains, such as cyber, space and the electromagnetic sphere are naturally an indispensable element of cross-domain fires.

In an Army paper titled “Multi-Domain Battle: Evolution of Combined Arms for the 21st Century 2025-2040,” former TRADOC Commander Gen. David Perkins writes:

“It (Multi-Domain Battle) expands the targeting landscape based on the extended ranges and lethality delivered at range by integrated air defenses, cross-domain fire support, and cyber/electronic warfare systems. We must solve the physics of this expanded battle space, and understand the capabilities that each domain can provide in terms of echelon, speed, and reach.”

Perkins and other senior Pentagon strategists have explained Multi-Domain Battle as a modern extension of the Cold War AirLand Battle Strategy which sought to integrate air and ground attacks to counter a Soviet attack in Europe.

“AirLand Battle started developing the concept of ‘extended battlefield.’ Multi-Domain battle endeavors to integrate capabilities in such a way that to counteract one, the enemy must become more vulnerable to another, creating and exploiting temporary windows of advantage,’ Perkins writes in Multi-Domain Battle: Joint Combined Arms Concept for the 21st Century.

Army – Air Force

The Army and the Air Force are also launching a new, collaborative war-gaming operation to assess future combat scenarios and, ultimately, co-author a new inter-service cross-domain combat doctrine.

Operating within this concept, Perkins and Air Force Air Combat Command Commanding General James Holmes are launching a new series of tabletop exercises to replicate and explore future warfare scenarios – the kind of conflicts expected to require technologically advanced Army-Air Force integration.

In a Pentagon report, Holmes said the joint wargaming effort will “turn into a doctrine and concept that we can agree on.”

“The F-35 is doing ISR and could possibly deliver a weapon on the same flight. We can then use what they can generate on the ground, fusing sensors, and target acquisition with things that can deliver effects,” a senior defense official told Warrior.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why some people have a problem with Lincoln’s quote as the VA motto

An annual membership survey from the organization Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) showed that less than half of surveyed members support a more gender-neutral version of the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ iconic motto: “To care for him care who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.”

The survey of about 4,600 IAVA members showed that 46 percent either “strongly” or “somewhat” supported changing the motto taken from Abraham Lincoln’s majestic Second Inaugural Address.


About 30 percent “strongly” or “somewhat” opposed changing the motto, while 24 percent were neutral on the issue.

In October 2018, the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School, backed by IAVA, the Service Women’s Action Network, and the NYC Veterans Alliance, petitioned the VA to change the motto.

“The current VA motto is gendered and exclusionary, relegating women veterans to the fringes of veteran communities,” the petition stated.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103

“The time to act is now,” Paul Rieckhoff, founder and chief executive officer of IAVA, said in a statement when the petition was filed.

Changing the motto would make “a powerful commitment to creating a culture that acknowledges and respects the service and sacrifices of women veterans,” Rieckhoff said.

November 2018, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, and Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-New York, introduced a bill that would change the motto to read: “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise ‘To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan’ by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s veterans.”

Another replacement motto suggested by advocacy groups would read: “To care for those who shall have borne the battle and their families and survivors.”

A VA spokesman has repeatedly said that the petition will be reviewed, but there are no current plans to change the motto.

Lincoln delivered his Second Inaugural on the steps of the Capitol on March 4, 1865, in the waning days of the Civil War and about a month before he was assassinated. John Wilkes Booth, his assassin, was in the audience.

Lincoln’s closing words were: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

VA centers are using tai chi to promote healing and mental clarity

Pan flute music like an old-time kung fu movie drifts serenely through the recreation room of the Milwaukee VA’s Spinal Cord Injury Center. Zibin Guo talks of swaying breezes, mountain streams, and the peaceful but powerful force of nature.

“Still… like a mountain,” he says. “Flow… like water.”

The group follows his every move from their chairs, pivoting wheels as he turns on foot. This new twist on an ancient martial art, Guo says, will play a big role in the modern-day treatment of pain and post-traumatic stress, even cutting down on opioids and other painkillers.

The three-day wheelchair tai chi seminar for health care workers from the Milwaukee and Madison VA Medical Centers; Appleton, Wisconsin, Clinic; and community hospitals, is part of Guo’s nationwide tour to teach more instructors, collect data and prove tai chi works.


Guo, a medical anthropologist from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, has received more than 0,000 from the Adaptive Sports Grant Program, and has already traveled to 24 VA medical centers. He hopes to get to 24 more by next year.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103

Zibin Guo

(YouTube)

The grant program, managed by the National Veterans Sports Program and Special Events Office, provides million annually to support studies and adaptive sports for disabled veterans. Guo said his goal is to promote a way to rethink western rehabilitative medicine, based on bodily functions of eastern philosophy.

“There is a mental clarity that comes from tai chi, which then creates physical benefits for the whole body,” he said.

“For some people,” he added, “this can be psychological. If someone is in a wheelchair, they may see themselves as disabled and are labeled that way. When you are labeled as disabled, you become disabled.

“Wheelchair tai chi transforms the idea of the wheelchair into something else. Now, it’s no longer just for transporting from one place to another. You use it to create power and beauty, integrating the chair movements with tai chi.”

Guo said some VAs have already learned the healing benefits while others are just starting to add tai chi to their repertoire.

“Especially now as VA is building up its Whole Health program nationwide, I hope we are going to see more of these types of offerings,” he said.

Milwaukee was one of the first VAs to offer tai chi. Its polytrauma department started it in 2012 with another grant from the Adaptive Sports Program. Guo’s techniques provided a different perspective, said Dr. Judith Kosasih, lead physician in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

“I knew when we started this seven years ago it was going to be valuable, and I believe in it,” she said. “Right now, we teach tai chi fundamentals, but he gives us a completely different perspective, with more movement, even in a wheelchair.”

Kosasih first started tai chi in Milwaukee, believing it would help with Parkinson’s Disease and pain.

Last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt Col Dick Cole, passes away at age 103

Zibin Guo leads health care workers through one of his tai chi routines. He first taught the group standing up and then in wheelchairs. Guo believes regular tai chi can significantly help treat post-traumatic stress and reduce the use of painkillers.

“The practice helps you relax, helps you sleep better. When you sleep better, you will feel better,” she said. “I guarantee it improves endurance, balance, memory, and you will be able to stand longer. It gives our veterans skills and empowers them to develop this and get better.”

It’s also a gateway to health for those who can’t afford other sports.

Guo said: “Paralympics and wheelchair rugby and basketball is great but think about how much just one of those chairs costs. The average person doesn’t have a chance. One percent can get the specialized chair and 99 percent can’t. Wheelchair tai chi gives people self-empowerment. You don’t need a special chair.

“There are so many physical benefits,” he added. “A lot of studies have already demonstrated that the nature of the movements is so unique, and the circular motion creates powerful circulation in the body. It’s not just the blood, but the energy, and that treats a wide range of problems without drugs — it treats pain, it treats headaches. There are so many benefits.”

Besides teaching others how to teach the class, he is asking them to compile data to prove his point. He pointed to one veteran in Tennessee, who said she used tai chi to drastically cut down on painkillers.

Zarita Croney, an Afghanistan veteran, suffered from post-traumatic stress, three bulging discs, one eroded disc and intermittent paralysis, plus a host of other issues.

“I had to have a huge purse just for all my meds. You’d look inside and see nothing but pill bottles.” While still in the military, she said she cycled through an array of pain medications. “I’d have to lay in bed for three hours, just waiting for the medicine to work,” she said.

Croney spiraled into depression until she reached out to the Tennessee Valley Health Care System for mental health. Her VA recommended recreation therapy, including the tai chi Guo promotes.

Mind and Machine

www.youtube.com

“The first time in tai chi, they had to wheel me there in a wheelchair,” she said. “The first few visits, I couldn’t get through the whole class. Then I start getting more range of motion. My instructor said, ‘Even if you can’t do it, see yourself doing it in your mind.’ And as you go along, your body does catch up with what the mind is doing.

“I went from visiting the emergency room at least once a month to get shot up with morphine, to walking with a cane, and sometimes without the cane. I’ve cut out about three-fourths of the pills I was on,” she said. “With all these things, it’s a battle every day, but tai chi gave me the foundation.”

Guo says this is nothing new to him.

“Pain symptoms are very complex and not just physical. The symptoms of stress, tension, or anger and bad emotions, that creates chemicals in the brain that stimulate pain,” he said. “Tai chi not only relaxes, it promotes healing.”

Leanne Young, a recreation therapist from the San Francisco VA Health Care System, said she is excited to see tai chi and other eastern philosophies gain more acceptance, because it plays into what she and other therapists have been doing for years.

“This is definitely time for this,” she said. “I think most people want to see evidence-based practice and data. They want to see research. Many things recreation therapists have done — not just tai chi, but in general — hasn’t always been recognized because there isn’t always research that supports the benefits.

“I really feel tai chi is a whole mind-body thing, and that really works. Your brain ends up telling your body what to do. It’s mindfulness, and to me, it’s a state of mind which affects your body and your pain reduction.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.